FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – He was, perhaps, Thursday's star of the day.
That obviously made Thursday cool for Jaguars linebacker Foye Oluokon. It's just as obvious listening to the veteran linebacker that he has far loftier goals.
They're simple goals. They're also very much about team.
"Win; I want to win more games, for sure," Oluokun, who spent his first four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, said Thursday after the second of two practices against his former team.
Oluokon, who impressed throughout Jaguars 2022 Training Camp, on Thursday turned in one of the bigger plays of two days of joint practices with the Falcons. In an 11-on-11 drill, he stepped in front of an underneath pass from Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota and returned it down the sideline for an apparent touchdown.
"It was nice to do that against the Falcons," he said, smiling.
If that play stood out Thursday, Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell this week said Oluokun "without a doubt" has stood out since signing as an unrestricted free agent this past March.
"Just like on offense, you need a signal-caller that everyone looks to that can make everybody comfortable," Caldwell said. "He does that for us on defense. He came in, learned the system, learned the new terminology, and he's been the guy out there getting guys lined up, and he's like a security blanket.
"He's comfortable with the system, and he allows everybody else to be comfortable also."
Oluokon said he writes his goals on his mirror before each season. They focus not on statistics as much as the big picture. This season?
"I want to be a respected linebacker across the league and I want people to give me that respect at the end of the year," he said.
Oluokun led the NFL in tackles with the Falcons last season. Beyond statistics, he is known as a smart player with football intelligence and ability to lead a defense. Among his roles this season: Lead a defense – and a linebacker unit – that features two first-round rookies, Travon Walker on the outside and Devin Lloyd on the inside, as well as third-round inside linebacker Chad Muma.
"I don't mind managing," Oluokun said. "That way I know where everybody is. I feel I have a lot of information to tell them so they can get up to speed and become great linebackers themselves. If we're all playing well, I think we're all doing our jobs, so that's good for me.
"Growing up playing sports, people kind of look at you as a leader and it kind of just happens naturally. When we're all clicking, we're clicking."
- Oluokun: "This defense can look good at times. We need to stay good when we're going well. I don't want to be wavy. I want to stay high. We've shown in two preseason games we look pretty good. We have to have that be our expectation. That way we can always play that well, no matter who we're playing against."
- Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson on Thursday discussed left guard, where third-year veteran Ben Bartch has worked with the first team in recent days after center/guard Tyler Shatley both worked there earlier in camp. "Bartch has done well there," Pederson said. "He has settled in over at left guard and Shatley has done a nice job as well. One thing with Shat is he can move back to center if we need to. He gives us a little versatility there."
- The Jaguars this week obtained second-year veteran Cole Van Lanen in a trade with the Green Bay Packers. Van Lanen has played both tackle and guard. "He did some nice things," Pederson said of Van Lanen's Wednesday practice. "We basically got him here late Tuesday might, gave him a physical Wednesday morning and a cram session with the offense and we throw him out there: 'Here you go, good luck, welcome to Jacksonville.' He's handled it extremely well. He's smart. He's a sharp guy. He was able to pick up a lot of things. I think he'll be able to compete possibly for a spot. We'll see how it unfolds."